Our History, Pioneers in Oncology
In 1991, the John Wayne Cancer Institute launched a successful affiliation with Saint John’s Health Center and opened in Santa Monica, California. Combined with the exceptional quality of Saint John’s medical staff and hospital, a unique community-based cancer research and training institute was formed, outstanding in the areas of translational research and the treatment of solid tumors including surgical oncology, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Leading this remarkable charge was the late Donald L. Morton, M.D., a larger than life presence who was born in a rural, coal-mining town in West Virginia. His persistent, scientific questioning of the role of the immune system in fighting cancer led to many advances throughout his decorated career.
The John Wayne Cancer Institute changed its name to Saint John’s Cancer Institute on January 1, 2021.
Donald Morton, M.D., advancements include:
- Development of the sentinel lymph node biopsy technique for melanoma and breast
- First successful use of immunotherapy in human malignancy
- Received one of the largest National Cancer Institute grants awarded to a single clinical cancer study (26.8 million five-year grant)
- Designed and ran two international, multicenter landmark surgical trials, MSLT –I and MSLT – II
- Authored over 1,000 publications
- Trained over 150 surgical oncologists
Recognized throughout the world for surgical excellence, the Saint John’s Cancer Institute attracts some of the most talented researchers and physicians that provide personalized patient care.
Learn more about our nationally ranked team of cancer experts today by visiting their bios.Directory
Landmark Articles Published by Faculty
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Technique in Melanoma “Technical Details of Intraoperative Lymphatic Mapping for Early Stage Melanoma.” Archives of Surgery
Use of SLN in Breast Cancer “Lymphatic Mapping and Sentinel Lymphadenectomy for Breast-Cancer” Annals of Surgery
Multicenter Selective Lymphadenectomy Trial-I (MSLT-I) – “Sentinel-Node Biopsy or Nodal Observation in Melanoma” NEJM
Immunotherapy in Metastatic Melanoma “Improved Survival with Ipilimumab in Patients with Metastatic Melanoma“. NEJM
MSLT II “Completion Dissection or Observation for Sentinel-Node Metastasis in Melanoma” NEJM
Fundamental, innovative research on the biology of cancer at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute provides the foundation of knowledge on which treatment and cures are built, here and at institutions worldwide. The Institute is home to bold collaborative research initiatives as well as a strong commitment to training and mentoring the next generation of cancer scientists and surgeons.
Now the Saint John’s Cancer Institute has expanded its fight against cancer to many different diseases, including urologic, thoracic, endocrine, gynecologic, and neurologic cancers. The translational research, surgical, and oncologic teams have quadrupled over the past three years as we continue to fight the battle with cancer.